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10 July 2014

In the Beginning

"In the extraordinarly extended and inclusive ratification process envisioned by the Preamble, Americans regularly found themselves discussing the Preamble itself. At Philidelphia, the earliest draft of the Preamble had come from the quill of Pennsylvania's James Wilson, and it was Wilson who took the lead in explaining the Preamble's principles in a series of early and influential ratification speeches. Pennsylvania Anti-Federalists complained that the Philadelphia notables had overreached in proposing an entirely new Constitution rather than a mere modification of the existing Articles of Confederation. In response, Wilson - America's leading lawyer and one of only six men to have signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution - stressed the significance of popular ratification. "This Constitution, proposed by [the Philadelphia draftsmen], claims no more than a production of the same nature would claim, flowing from a private pen. It is laid before the citizens of the United States, unfettered by restraint ... By their fiat, it will become of value and authority; without it, it will never receive the character of authenticity and power." ...

"With the word fiat, Wilson gently called to mind the opening lines of Genesis. In the beginning, God said, fiat lux, and -behold!- there was light. So, too, when the American people (Publius's "supreme authority") said, "We do ordain and establish," that very statement would do the deed. "Let there be a Constitution" --and there would be one. As the ultimate sovereign of all had once made man in his own image, so now the temporal sovereign of America, the people themselves, would make a constitution in their own image."

-America's Constitution, by Akhil Reed Amar, page 8-9

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